The Leatherback Turtle is the largest turtle in the world. All its lief is spent wearilessly swimming through the tropical and temperate seas, looking for food far from the shore. They can be observed in all seas of the world – from Iceland in the north to New Zealand in the south.
At first glance it might seem this is an ordinary turtle, but upon a closer look it can be seen that this animal lacks the trademark turtle piece of equipment – the shell made of horn substance. Instead, the Leatherback Turtle’s body is covered with a hard skin, with a net of small, connected bones underneath. Thus, these turtles have the armor that protects them from enemies, but still have a hydrodynamic body, causing much smaller resistance when swimming.
The Leatherback Turtle is the biggest and fastest swimming turtle
Thanks to the front extremities that have developed into flippers, the Leatherback Turtle is an excellent swimmer, although it is still too slow to chase and catch fish and cephalopods. That is why, the animal feeds on the slower sea creatures, such as jellyfishes and plankton. As the body of jellyfishes consists mostly of water, they’re not as nutritious as fish would be and the Leatherback Turtle has to consume incredible amounts of jellyfish to quench the hunger. These turtles are immune to the jellyfish venom to be able to hunt them successfully. Only sometimes it has been observed that the turtles avoid the most dangerous jellyfish.
Although the Leatherback Turtle is a true sea animal, it has to come on dry land to mate. Observations show that this species mate only once a few years, but in one season the female can lay eggs in up to 90 places, with 80 or more eggs in each of them. Leatherback Turtles mate in the sea, near the shore, and the female immediately goes on the land and lays eggs in the whole that she has been using for multiple years. Up to 170 eggs can be laid at a time and after finishing the task, the female returns in the sea. A few months later the young turtles are born and they immediately run for the sea. Many become victims to sea birds and other predators and most of the turtles are killed before reaching maturity.
A Leatherback Turtle laying eggs on a beach
Due to their nomadic nature, the Leatherback Turtles are hard to keep track of or observe. Therefore, the life expectancy and exact population numbers can only be estimated, although it is known that tourism and increasing population in beaches where these turtles lay eggs, is reducing their numbers. Grown Leatherback Turtles have no natural predators, thus they are relatively safe from other sea creatures.